Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Injury-mediated stiffening persistently activates muscle stem cells through YAP and TAZ mechanotransduction

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Science Advances  12 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 11, eabe4501
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe4501


The skeletal muscle microenvironment transiently remodels and stiffens after exercise and injury, as muscle ages, and in myopathic muscle; however, how these changes in stiffness affect resident muscle stem cells (MuSCs) remains understudied. Following muscle injury, muscle stiffness remained elevated after morphological regeneration was complete, accompanied by activated and proliferative MuSCs. To isolate the role of stiffness on MuSC behavior and determine the underlying mechanotransduction pathways, we cultured MuSCs on strain-promoted azide-alkyne cycloaddition hydrogels capable of in situ stiffening by secondary photocrosslinking of excess cyclooctynes. Using pre- to post-injury stiffness hydrogels, we found that elevated stiffness enhances migration and MuSC proliferation by localizing yes-associated protein 1 (YAP) and WW domain–containing transcription regulator 1 (WWTR1; TAZ) to the nucleus. Ablating YAP and TAZ in vivo promotes MuSC quiescence in postinjury muscle and prevents myofiber hypertrophy, demonstrating that persistent exposure to elevated stiffness activates mechanotransduction signaling maintaining activated and proliferating MuSCs.

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